This Week in Interfaith America: A News Roundup

The Rev. Ferrell Malone speaks during a voting rights rally outside the White House on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, in Washington. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins

Every week, we share some of our favorite pieces about religious pluralism in America -- stories that inspire us, teach us, or show people working together across religious differences.

This week we’re proud to include a piece from Harvard Business Review by Amber Hacker, vice president of operations and finance at IFYC, about religious diversity in the workplace. We also share stories about the importance of including religion in bridge-building conversations, a controversial Catholic saint, and an interfaith friendship in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood.

If you spot a great religion story out there, please send it our way. Contact us at

1. Are Non-Christian Employees Represented in Your Holiday Policies?

IFYC Vice President Amber Hacker wrote this essay, which debuted on the home page of Harvard Business Review. Noting that one-third of Americans don’t identify as Christian, she shares how IFYC models a more equitable approach to time off.

2. Diversity is Sacred. When Building Bridges, Don't Forget about Religion

Building bridges between diverse groups, whether by race, gender, sexuality, or politics, is necessary because of the tensions, differences, and conflicts that often arise between them. It is time to include religion at the same level too, writes Eboo Patel, founder, and president of IFYC. 

3. The Gift of Eihab Falah

Writing for The Washington Post, Lynda Schuster tells the story of a remarkable friendship that blossomed in Pittsburgh in the wake of the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue shooting. Schuster lives in the synagogue’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, also home to the late Presbyterian pastor Fred Rogers, the beloved “Mr. Rogers” of television fame. Schuster tells how her grieving neighbors rallied around Eihab Falah, a young Israeli Druze man who flew to Pittsburgh for emergency cancer surgery. Caring for Eihab and his family, one neighbor tells her, was a “balm to (my) post-shooting despair.”

4. Climate Crisis at the Forefront of Agenda for Parliament of the World’s Religions

Nidhi Upadhyaya of Religion News Service reports on a three-day gathering of religious leaders at the 128th Parliament of the World’s Religions. The event, which was held virtually for the first time this year, focused on building interfaith understanding, featured a keynote speech by Jane Goodall, and highlighted diverse religious communities’ initiatives to address climate change.

5. Francis Emphasizes Social Justice in Papal Tweetstorm

For Religion News Service, Jesuit priest Thomas J. Reese notes that Pope Francis sent 17 tweets to his 19 million Twitter followers over the weekend, an usually long series that addressed environmental and social crises. Francis “has turned Twitter into a prophetic medium,” Reese writes. “It is his way of getting the Gospel message out to the world.”

6. ’Dune’ Novels Draw on Islamic Motifs and Have in Turn Inspired Muslim Artists

A movie based on the novel “Dune” debuted this week, and Joseph Hammond contemplates “The Duniverse” in this piece for Religion News Service. That sci-fi novel is heavily influenced by ecology and sociology — as well as Islamic imagery and the writings of Islamic philosopher Ibn Khaldun.

7. Jewish Farming Takes Root

Joe Baur’s piece in Tablet Magazine describes a new generation of American Jews who are reconnecting with Judaism as they turn to the land. At Adamah Farm in rural Falls Village, Connecticut, Jewish farmers start the day with morning prayers in Hebrew. They’re part of the growing Jewish Farmers Network, which drew a record 316 people from 35 states and six countries to its virtual conference this year.

8. Learning to Live with Durians Again

Writing for Catapult magazine, Rebecca Kwee ponders her complex ties to her roots in Singapore through her relationship with the durian, a South Asian fruit with a pungent smell and a fleeting shelf life. “Thailand and Malaysia are the biggest durian exporters, and the fruit’s popularity and complex shipping requirements mean that they are luxury goods, to be enjoyed within Asia,” Kwee writes. She finds inspiration in the example of her multi-faceted grandfather, who saw a vision of Jesus Christ and tended a lush Indonesian garden.

9. Voting Rights Demonstration Leads to Faith Leaders’ Arrests Outside White House

Religion News Service's Jack Jenkins shares this eyewitness account of religious leaders protesting outside the White House this week. Interfaith clergy called on President Joe Biden and congressional lawmakers to pass the John Lewis Act and other voting rights legislation.

10. California and the Erasure of Junipero Serra’s Legacy 

Real Clear Politics staff writer Susan Crabtree unpacks the contentious legacy of the Spanish-born priest Junipero Serra, a Franciscan who founded 21 Catholic mission churches along the coast of California, beginning in 1769. The pope canonized Serra in 2015, shocking those who view the priest as a brutal colonizer of Indigenous people. As statues of Serra topple across California, and Catholic archbishops and Indigenous leaders pen competing op-eds, Crabtree notes that “for some tribal leaders who are Catholic, Serra’s sins — forced conversions, indentured servitude and corporal punishment inflicted on natives — cannot be rationalized away even though they still value the Catholic heritage Serra provided.”



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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.